Monthly Archives: April 2011

Dinosaurs and Tiaras: Facing Intolerance

I love that my graduate students have challenged, tackled and addressed controversial issues this semester.  Our focus on digital citizenship has addressed issues of intolerance week after week.  I find myself challenging my beliefs and asking questions that I never even thought of when I first started teaching.

My transformation started this fall when the freshmen from Rutgers, Tyler Clementi took his own life. I took it personally. I did not know Tyler, but his suicide made me determined to focus on a solution. Tyler Clementi could be my son, your son. He was a brother, grandson, nephew, cousin, friend, neighbor, and most importantly, a human being. This perspective launched me into uncharted territory. I am the mother of a son. What if this was my son? What can I do to make sure this doesn’t happen again? How can I make a difference?

The world responded and It Gets Better Project had people across the world stepping up and pledging to speak up against intolerance.  Celebrities posted their own stories and words of encouragement.  As our semester is coming to a close, I’m still concerned that I haven’t done enough.  Why do children and teens have to wait for it to get better?  Why can’t we make it better now?

Recently, the controversy around the J.Crew designer and her five year old son wearing neon pink nail polish hit the news.  Everyone seemed to have an opinion.  It made me dig deep.  My four year old is all about dinosaurs, but what would I do if he was interested in tiaras?  I kept coming back to the same questions: why would it matter?  Children need the opportunity to play and explore different roles – that’s what growing up is all about.  In middle school, adolescents try on new personas daily.  We support young adolescents as they figure out who they are socially, emotionally, physically, intellectual and morally.  Why are we not doing this in all phases of a child’s development?  What do we need to do as a society to change how we view others and accept individual differences?  Doesn’t everyone want to celebrate what makes us unique?  I certainly do!  I’m not waiting, I pledge to make a difference now.


Flipping Over the Flipped Classroom

BT (Before Twitter), I used Google to find resources and prep for my classes.  BG (Before Google), I loved to go to the library or the bookstore and plop myself down in the middle of the stacks and comb through countless books.  Sticky notes marked  the sections or images I wanted to use and/or Xerox.  Those days are over!  (I have “Dog Days Are Over” by Florence and The Machine playing as I write this!)

BT and BG, I went to museums to create scavenger hunts for the upcoming field trip.  BT and BG I planned curriculum units using a big yearly desk calendar.  BT and BG I met and planned with teachers in my school, usually on my team.  We talked on the telephone (the one connected to your home) to make plans on when and where to meet.  Those days are over!

BT and BG, I met with students in class or after school.  Now, I’m available by text, mobile phone, email, Twitter, Skype and our home phone (yes, we still have one). We don’t have to wait until the designated class time to communicate.  If students have questions or concerns, I’m available and easy to reach.  I really like this! Learning doesn’t stop and start up again.

Last week, I went beyond BT and BG.  I’ve entered a new realm of learning and opportunities, BS (Before Skype) I had to invite guest lecturers to come to class. This year, former students have Skyped in to share their learning experiences with my new classes and local colleagues have shared their knowledge, but these have always been with people I personally know.  Those days are over.

Last week during #edchat, I asked  a “virtual” colleague, Jonathan Bergmann if he would like to Skype in with my graduate class.  I had never met Jonathan prior to our Skype session; communication was through Twitter and email.  Jonathan and Aaron Sam  shared their “flipped classrooms” with us.  The experience was amazing.  This is what a flipped classroom looks like in action…

I want to be in this classroom.  I want to teach in this classroom.  I want to learn in this classroom.

BT, BG and BS how would this have ever been possible?  We were on campus in a computer lab in Connecticut talking to Jonathan and Aaron in their classroom in Colorado!  Here’s what some of my graduate students had to say about the whole experience…

  • When I think of Skype I think about the saying the sky’s the limit.  Being able to communicate with people who are in a different city, time zone, or country, allows for technology to be combined with learning, creating a holistic learning environment for all students.  This was demonstrated in class the other night when we were able to Skype in with two experts who created the Flipped Classroom approach.  Being able to have a conversation with them made learning enjoyable but it also allowed for us to get the real facts and stories about this new and innovative teaching approach.
  • It was marvelous to have the opportunity to speak directly with the creators of the Flipped Classroom approach via SKYPE.  This technology made it possible to bring two innovative educators from the mountains of Colorado into our classroom.  Many thanks for giving us this splendid chance to communicate with them – I was so impressed.
  • I really enjoyed speaking with the flip class guys last week.  I love the concept of the “flipped classroom”.  I would be interested to see how it would work in a humanities, social studies or English classroom.  When I got home that night I told my husband about what we did in class.  He brought up a good point.  He wondered if the flipped classroom would work in a struggling school where academic performance was not great.  I wonder if the reason that the guys in Colorado have had so much success is because they come from a good school district where the students genuinely want to learn and do work.  I agreed with my husband that the concept would not work if students just flat out refused to watch the videos in the evening.
  • It was an amazing thing to learn about and even more amazing that we were hearing about from the guys who invented it who just happened to live two time zones away in Colorado. It was kind of an eye opening realization as to how far technology has come and how much it has changed the world.  I mean we were in our class in CT, could see and hold a live conversation with these two “game changers” all the way in CO and were able to find out first hand things like their inspiration for doing this and how this has changed their jobs and lives. Pretty incredible stuff.

The way I taught BT, BG and BS, those days are over!  I’m constantly learning, improving and I absolutely love the fact that my learning curve is always stuck in the curve position!  Thank you @jonbergmann and @chemicalsams for sharing your time, talent and passion with us!  You have moved us forward in our thinking and I can’t wait to start flipping!  This iMovie clip was my first attempt and I have so much to learn!  I will have to figure out how I can get to Colorado this summer for your #flipclass conference!

For those interested, here are some additional resources about the #flipclass: MBFXC EDUC 501; Educational VodcastingYouTube: Learning for Mastery; The Flipped Class Network; Flipping the Classroom; and Terminal Velocity.



Drop a Pebble in the Water

My friend Barbara is planning on reading this poem at Grace Academy on Thursday in celebration of poetry month.  The poem goes hand in hand with the courses I’ve been teaching this semester.  What does it mean to be a socially responsible 21st century citizen in and out of the classroom?  Ho do we treat each other in person and online?  How do our actions today influence others in the future?  What kind of pebble did you drop in the water today?

Drop a pebble in the water:
just a splash, and it is gone;
But there’s half-a-hundred ripples
Circling on and on and on,
Spreading, spreading from the center,
flowing on out to the sea.
And there is no way of telling
where the end is going to be.

Drop a pebble in the water:
in a minute you forget,
But there’s little waves a-flowing,
and there’s ripples circling yet,
And those little waves a-flowing
to a great big wave have grown;
You’ve disturbed a mighty river
just by dropping in a stone.

Drop an unkind word, or careless:
in a minute it is gone;
But there’s half-a-hundred ripples
circling on and on and on.
They keep spreading, spreading, spreading
from the center as they go,
And there is no way to stop them,
once you’ve started them to flow.

Drop an unkind word, or careless:
in a minute you forget;
But there’s little waves a-flowing,
and there’s ripples circling yet,
And perhaps in some sad heart
a mighty wave of tears you’ve stirred,
And disturbed a life was happy
ere you dropped that unkind word.

Drop a word of cheer and kindness:
just a flash and it is gone;
But there’s half-a-hundred ripples
circling on and on and on,
Bearing hope and joy and comfort
on each splashing, dashing wave
Till you wouldn’t believe the volume
of the one kind word you gave.

Drop a word of cheer and kindness:
in a minute you forget;
But there’s gladness still a-swelling,
and there’s joy circling yet,
And you’ve rolled a wave of comfort
whose sweet music can be heard
Over miles and miles of water
just by dropping one kind word.

~By James W. Foley~


The Utter Joy of Curiosity

Children come to school curious about how the world works and over time we squelch that curiosity out of them by not fostering and further developing it.  I teach an elementary science and social studies methods course and I’m constantly trying to reconnect my graduate students back to their childhood and back to their innate curiosity.

Now that I’m a mother of a four year old, I’m even more aware of just how curious children are.  Every Friday the two of us plan our Friday Fun Day.  My son takes the lead and decides what we’ll do and this Friday was science experiment day.  Experiencing “dancing raisins” through his eyes was one of those moments I’ll cherish my entire life.

After reading Why Preschool Shouldn’t Be Like School and Ready Freddy?! I am really questioning why elementary schools don’t focus more on social studies, science and curiosity in general?  There’s such a push for reading, writing and mathematics (not that I’m knocking those subjects, but social studies and science go hand in hand with curiosity).  How do we change this? Certainly by making sure preschool is not like school and we’re not trying so hard to make our children “kindergarten ready” because if that’s the focus, we miss this…

And I certainly don’t want to miss a second of it!